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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sutyagin Found Guilty of Treason

APIgor Sutyagin
A jury found scholar Igor Sutyagin guilty of treason in a case that has been decried by human rights activists and the scientific community as a witch-hunt by resurgent secret services.

Having heard closing arguments by the prosecution and defense, the 12-member jury deliberated behind closed-doors for three hours before finding Sutyagin guilty of "state treason in the form of espionage" -- a conviction that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Sutyagin's lawyer Boris Kuznetsov was quick to decry the verdict, charging that Moscow City Court Judge Marina Komarova unfairly swayed the jury of nine men and three women. "I believe the judge has manipulated the jury," the visibly upset lawyer told reporters outside the courtroom.

Kuznetsov said the judge avoided asking the jurors whether information that Sutyagin collected and passed to a foreign company had in fact contained state secrets.

Of the four questions she asked jurors to consider in deciding their verdict, none contained a reference to state secrets -- even though the prosecution maintained that Sutyagin sold information containing state secrets to a British company that was a cover for U.S. intelligence, Kuznetsov said.

The first two questions asked whether Sutyagin had been recruited by a "foreign defense intelligence service" and whether he had been paid for the information he passed over to that service, according to Kuznetsov. The third question was whether Sutyagin should be found guilty based on the answers to the first two questions, while the fourth was whether he deserved leniency.

While unanimous in finding Sutyagin guilty, the jury was divided on whether he deserved leniency. Four voted for leniency, while eight voted against it. But since a majority voted against it, the judge will not be required to show leniency when sentencing Sutyagin, Kuznetsov said.

The court is to re-convene Tuesday without the jury to hear the prosecution and defense debate Sutyagin's sentence.

Judge Komarova presided over the convictions of former Russian diplomat Valentin Moiseyev and former KGB General Oleg Kalugin, who both were charged with espionage.

Komarova -- who is banned by law from commenting on ongoing trials -- made no public comments Monday. The prosecution team and the jurors left the courtroom without comment.

In his closing remarks Monday, Sutyagin maintained his innocence and reiterated that he had relied on open sources in his work.

"Sutyagin is not denying the fact of the transfer of information but is asserting that he collected it from open sources and it could not be classified as a state secret," Kuznetsov said.

Sutyagin, a scholar at the respected USA and Canada Institute was arrested by FSB agents in Kaluga in October 1999. He was subsequently charged with selling information on nuclear submarines and missile warning systems to a British company that the prosecutor claimed was a cover for the CIA.

Sutyagin has said he did not have any reason to believe the British company was an intelligence cover. He has remained in jail since his arrest, despite pleas by his lawyers to release him pending trial. A Kaluga regional court had been expected to deliver a verdict in the case in 2001 but instead instructed prosecutors to continue investigating.

Sutyagin's lawyers got the case transferred to the Moscow City Court last year, and the court agreed to their request for a jury trial in October.

In January, leading human rights organizations appealed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, saying Sutyagin was the target of a politically driven spy case.

In addition to Sutyagin, three other scholars have been accused by the FSB of supplying state secrets to foreigners. One of them, physicist Valentin Danilov, was acquitted by a Krasnoyarsk jury in December on charges of spying for China while working on a commercial contract.

Human rights advocates say the FSB has grown bolder in its prosecution of scholars under President Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB agent who headed the FSB in 1998 and 1999.